Art comes in many shapes and sizes, but Krakow has them all. If you’re planning to travel to Krakow, you should know that you’re about to visit a perfect place for art lovers. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the history of fine arts, architecture, or theater – Krakow has it all to make your stay unforgettable.
Here is a comprehensive Krakow guide for art lovers.
Fine arts and architecture in Krakow
If you’re interested in the art of the Middle Ages, Krakow is the best place for you. Masterpieces created during that period today grace the city’s churches, and many have been relocated to museums. During the late 15th century, Krakow was home to Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz), one of the most famous sculptors of the Gothic era. You can admire his majestic altarpiece in the basilica of Virgin Mary.
Those who love the Renaissance art and architecture will be delighted to visit the Wawel Royal Castle and its golden-domed Sigismund Chapel. Speaking of Renaissance art, visitors can also admire one of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces ‘Lady with an Ermine’ in Czartoryskis Museum.
When it comes to architecture, Krakow boasts some breathtaking Baroque churches and palaces built in the 17th and 18th century that are all worth your attention.
Krakow’s painting tradition
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the painter Piotr Michałowski rose to fame as the first Polish artist of the highest European format. His moving portraits of townspeople and peasants, as well as battle scenes such as the famous Battle of Samosierra depicting a battle during the Napoleonic wars, were considered as equal to the works produced by the greatest French artists like Eugene Delacroix or Teodor Gericault.
The latter part of the century saw the emergence of historical painting, in particular, Jan Matejko who captured key moments in Poland’s tragic history in his remarkable works and established the Polish tradition of historical-patriotic painting later exemplified in the works of Wojciech Kossak. You can admire these works at the Krakow National Museum.
But Krakow is a real treat for those who love modern art. In the late 1890s, Krakow exploded with talent and attracted an amazing group of painters, poets, sculptors, and writers united by the Young Poland movement that was related to the Art Nouveau. You simply need to see Stanislaw Wyspianski’s majestic stained-glass windows and frescoes at the Church of St Francis. You can admire the collection of Krakow’s 20th-century art in the main gallery of the Krakow National Museum.
Contemporary art collections
Today Krakow boasts a large number of active artists who graduated from Krakow’s renowned Academy of Fine Arts and found home in many local art galleries. A must-see for all contemporary art lovers is MOCAK – the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.
Established in 2010, the museum quickly became an excellent cultural venue and an essential place on Krakow’s artistic map. Housed in a building designed by Claudio Nardi, the museum is located in the industrial district of Podgórze and displays art produced during the last 20 years.
Another essential place is Bunkier Sztuki (Bunker of Art). Established in 1965, Bunkier Sztuki is today one of the most famous Polish institutions presenting contemporary art.
As you wander the streets of Krakow’s Old Town, you will notice numerous local artists shop’ and art galleries around the Main Market Square and especially along Pijarska street.
Krakow’s theater scene
Krakow has always been important on the European literary scene. Some of the most outstanding Polish writers and poets at the turn of the 20th century were Stanisław Wyspiański, Stanisław Przybyszewski or Józef Mehoffer.
But Krakow is the capital of writers and artists today. Contemporary artists include the theater director Tadeusz Kantor, the science-fiction star Stanisław Lem, the writer Slawomir Mrozek, the film director Andrzej Wajda, as well as renowned poets and Nobel laureates Czeslaw Milosz and Wisława Szymborska.
No wonder that Krakow is home to many theater groups and festivals. One of the most significant festivals is the Ulica Street Art Festival. In fact, it’s one of the oldest street festivals in the region and has been part of Krakow’s vibrant cultural scene since 1988. The festival features a broad range of presentations and activities within just a couple of days. And it’s not only about traditional theater production and performance art, but also street performances that become part of the urban landscape for just a few hours.
Another interesting theater festival is Kto Theatre. Founded by a traveling theater company, the festival has long been part of Krakow’s dynamic theater scene. The theater would often take their performances to streets and involve both passersby and the audience.
Finally, there is Krakow International Festival of Theatrical Reminiscences which features theatrical performances from 45 countries that cover all possible variants of theater performance, ranging from dance and drama to comedy and art performance.
Music in Krakow
Krakow resounds with music of every kind and is home to some of the most prestigious music festivals in Europe, for example, Misteria Paschalia – a treat for fans of early music – or the Krakow Film Music Festival that boasts an impressive lineup of artists.
Krakow is home to a lively club scene as well. Jazz is especially appreciated and visitors can choose from shows held in different types of venues or festivals – most importantly, the Jazz Festival organized in the courtyard of the famous Pod Baranami club, right next to the Main Market Square.
Krakow – the city for art lovers
It should come as no surprise that Krakow is a city that is just perfect for all kinds of art lovers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in architecture or painting, theater or music – visit Krakow if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience with everything the world of art has to offer.
It might be the medieval architecture, long-standing painting tradition, or lively theater scene – Krakow fascinates many people who visit this vibrant city over and over again to experience its rich cultural offerings.